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Households to get water tax reprieve – ministers

Householders are set for a reprieve of at least a year on the payment of water charges.

Although the water tax is scheduled to come in next year, there are strong indications the introduction will be delayed until at least 2015.

Ministers are concerned about a possible backlash from the public about the new tax coming so soon after the introduction of the controversial property tax.

Two ministers yesterday indicated water charges would be postponed.

Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes told the Irish Independent it was up to the Government – and not the bailout team – to decide when water charges would come into effect.

He said there was "quite an amount of work" to be done before the charges were applied, including:

• The level of free allowance.

• Exemptions from the charges.

• How the regulator consults with the public.

The primary concern is the rollout of water meters to every home to avoid having to bring in a flat-rate charge, which would be regarded as unfair.

Mr Hayes's comments were backed by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore last night.

The Tanaiste is currently visiting Turkey on four day trade mission and it was reported last night that he said that the meters will not be installed in time for charges to be introduced next year.

"There will not be sufficient metering done by January to allow a charging regime to come in."

Mr Hayes said he was not second-guessing what approach the Coalition would take.

"There is quite a lot of work that needs to happen between now and then. But ultimately it is a matter for Government and I think the Memorandum of Understanding makes it clear that we will have the introduction of water rates. As to when it is going to be is really a matter for the Government," he said.

Irish Independent